These are the kinds of matchups that we dream of in the state of Michigan.
Coming off of a heartbreaking loss Saturday afternoon in Madison, the #4 Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3 B1G) will wrap-up a tough four game stretch on the road against Tom Izzo and the #8 Michigan State Spartans (20-4, 9-2 B1G) in a critical game for the Big Ten standings.
Michigan State enters the game as one of the hottest teams in college basketball, winning 9 of their last 10, losing only in a very impressive showing at Indiana. Michigan on the other hand, has lost two of their last three games, both coming on the road.
This is a must-win for the Wolverines if they want to be Big Ten Champions of the regular season. They are the more talented team, but the Spartans have the advantage physically and coaching wise. Not to say that John Beilein is a bad coach, but Tom Izzo’s resume is far more accomplished and I believe stacks up with any other elite coach in the country.
You can always throw the records out during a rivalry game, but this year, both teams are special and both have legitimate shots to go deep into the NCAA Tournament. If Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten, Michigan State is probably the next in line in my view.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are one of the best duos in the nation, but the player who must be the best in tomorrow night’s game is freshman Mitch McGary.
While Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have hit a bit of a freshman wall in recent weeks, McGary has improved greatly and has been key in replacing the injured Jordan Morgan, who is questionable for tomorrow’s game. One of the biggest matchups of the game will be how he plays against Adrien Payne, who has come on for the Spartans lately.
Another key will be limiting what the trio of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Brenden Dawson do against the Wolverines. I have stated in the past that perimeter defense is a bit of a concern for me, and leaving these guys open could be a killer for Michigan’s chances on the road.
The story of this game will ultimately be Michigan’s talent versus Michigan State’s grit and intensity. It will be another Big Ten fist fight on the road and it will be against arguably the best team they have played all season. While the Wolverines have been a top five team all year long, they still lack a signature victory in my eyes.
Michigan has a chance to make a statement that shows the nation, in a wide open year for college basketball, that they are indeed the team to beat for the national title. It would also go a long way for their Big Ten title chances.
Buckle up, Wolverine Nation. It’s going to be a wild ride.
The game tips at 9pm tomorrow night on ESPN.
You can follow me on Twitter @Anthony_Broome and at our site @BBlueRecruiting.